As I wrote my post on Woodstock yesterday, I was flooded with an internal dialogue about what happened in the “world” afterwards. For those who were there or were touched by it in so many ways, there was certainly many expectations and dreams that were inevitably formed in its wake. The general consensus was that the “world” would see that a large gathering of humanity (a community of 500 thousand) could not just survive but actually thrive with little or no rules or laws. Could this be a template for the salvation of humankind and the birth of a new “world society” where peace and love were the norm and everyone was able to live and grow without limits or government imposed restrictions? Had we just seen the birth of a “Utopian Earth” and the beginning of a “Golden Age” that would carry all of us joyfully into the next millennium?
Obviously, none of this came to fruition and we are now, by my estimation, in a far more dire situation. What happened? Why didn’t any massive changes take hold? I have several assertions as to why this event not only didn’t bring about any significant transformation but, rather, may have spawned a negative outcome.
In the history of the drug culture, Woodstock took place when most “users” were consuming large quantities of marijuana and LSD (and many other hallucinogens) and there was a feeling of “family” among most of the participants. We all felt we shared a common set of ideals and that we were engaged in a “war” with the “evil empire” (otherwise known as the “establishment”) and there was an atmosphere of inevitable “victory”: eventually, “they” would all “convert” or die and “we” would assume our rightful place in a fresh, new world. Battle lines were drawn and we were going to “love the enemy” into submission. My first premise is that “the establishment” became fearful of their loss of control (and the security that goes along with it) and events like Woodstock only served to galvanize their concerns and this caused them to become even more entrenched and proactive. In other words, our best intentions to create a “new world” just brought about a deeper rift and further polarization.
The other major factor that led to the ultimate failure of the “hippie agenda” was the proliferation of “hard” drugs into the culture: cocaine, amphetamines (speed), heroine (mostly brought back by Vietnam vets), etc. These drugs completely destroyed the trust and camaraderie that had so marked the “love culture” as rip-offs and other dishonest behavior became prevalent. This dis-unifying activity completely undermined the cohesion we had all enjoyed and destroyed all the impetus the movement had garnered. As the “enemy” became stronger, we became weaker and dis-empowered. The “movement” was over….
Not only did this kill any hope of any real change, it created a generation that is mired in apathy and inaction, and a deep despair seems to have griped the land. There is no focused energy or even a rallying cry (unless you count the wacko Tea Party)… we seem resigned to a bleak existence marked by endless meaningless political rhetoric and corporate greed. The average guy on the street has accepted his lot and his only consolation has become the hope that he has enough money to buy some beer and keep his cable running. A sad state of affairs, indeed.
I’ve had very little dealings with most of my friends from that era but, on the few occasions when I have interacted with them, I find that most have become the the thing we all feared. They are either entrenched in the “system” or still living some kind of pseudo-hippie, drug-numbed lifestyle. At parties, the main topic of conversation is the retelling of the same old “far out, mind-blowing happenings” we shared in the long-gone past. Very little is ever said about what is going on NOW, nor are there any discussions about what can realistically be done to correct the situation we are all faced with.
I have very little hope that anything can be done “out there” and I’ve devoted my time and efforts to “healing my mind”…. to evolve myself so that I can live a fuller and truly happier life. I can’t control what others do but I can make internal changes that allow me to be an example of what is possible. All real change always starts with the individual.